‘There’s Power in People’

Crazy fans and advocates are more powerful than any broadcast channel.

March 14, 2012

People before products.

That’s James R. Lay’s mantra, but it’s not based on any touchy-feely notions.

“There’s power in people,” says Lay, grower of relationships for PTP New Media in Pasadena, Texas. “People trust recommendations from people they know, not from businesses.”

Lay cites findings from Econsultancy that 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know, and 70% trust the opinions of unknown users. And nearly 80% of consumers say recommendations from other consumers are the most credible form of advertising, Nielsen reports.

As a result, Lay believes credit unions should rethink their approach to cross-channel marketing—connecting with members on an emotional level, not pushing products through traditional marketing channels.

“We don’t want customers or members,” he says. “We want crazy fans and advocates. They’re more powerful than any broadcast channel.”

Lay says credit unions can begin to achieve that aim by:

• Replacing fear with fun. All of us, whether we’re eight or 80, like to have fun. Therefore, people will respond to marketing efforts that incorporate fun.

Lay recalls that when Microsoft released a new version of the Android phone, CEO Steve Ballmer promised the device would have “500 new features.”

Apple, on the other hand, promotes how its iPhone makes life easier.

“Having 500 new features isn’t fun—it’s scary in the eyes of consumers,” Lay says. “It’s information overload. Fear equals risk.”

One way to incorporate fun in cross-channel marketing is to give members a starring role.

Lay cites a credit union that highlighted its “everyday superheroes,” real members who used various credit union products, such as “super auto loans for everyday superheroes.”

The promotion changed each month and incorporated multiple marketing channels: in-branch, print, posters, flyers, ATM screens, community partnerships, e-mail, and a microsite.

“It was the best campaign they’d ever done,” Lay recalls.

• Doing the opposite of what others are doing. “If everyone else is cutting their marketing budgets, think what would happen if we added to ours,” he suggests.

• Creating an emotional connection. TOMS shoes, for example, donates a pair shoes to a child in need for each pair it sells. As a result of its “one day without shoes” movement, hundreds of thousands of children in Argentina received new shoes.

The company has built a community around how customers wear its shoes, Lay says.

“Done right, cross-channel marketing can tell a story. Look at how you can bring emotion into your marketing: How does it touch the heart and soul?”

• Being bold and standing out. Lay says too many credit unions do marketing R&D: “rip off and duplicate.”

“Make your marketing your own and go against the norm,” Lay advises. “Realize you can’t please everyone—and it’s scary being a nut.”

Lay addressed the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council’s annual conference in New Orleans.